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Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice A. Jones takes the stage
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City Manager Chris Morrill states how well our region is doing according to a great checklist.
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WDBJ's Lindsay Anderson emcees as live results come in for a text survey.
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Attendees enjoy lunch while learning more about the event sponsors.
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The scavenger hunt allowed for fresh air and a little sunshine.
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Attendees got familiar with downtown Roanoke during the afternoon scavenger hunt.
eXperience 2016 took place last Friday at the Taubman Museum of Art, providing young professionals an opportunity to connect, learn, and grow. In its 2nd year, eXperience YP was established to "connect and empower young professionals to strength our communities socially and economically."
The morning kicked off with eXperience Emcee Lindsey Anderson of WDBJ7 and Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Maurice A. Jones. One of the most fun parts of the event was the live results - attendees were asked to submit answers to questions via text messages, which would then show up on real time on the big screen. Questions included asking ages (see photo in gallery), to "Do you see yourself living here in 5 years?" (a resounding 80% or so answered YES!), to asking for one word that best represents why we love the region (many, many choices, including "The People," "mountains," "outdoors," "great restaurants," and more).
Jones led with the region's economy, inspiring attendees first thing about "movement," wanting individuals to leave the conference ready to act and make a difference in our community.
"Roanoke is leading the pack in doing what everyone needs to be doing, and taking leadership roles in that. The whole region is blessed with academic assets...you opened one of the first entrepreneur spots downtown, you attract and bring in jobs [such as Deschutes], you have a great team of leaders working with us at state levels...these are big wins," he said.
Jones expressed the importance of a high functioning team, emphasizing that we all have a role to play, and no one can sit on the sidelines. "Choose your cause - education, health, entrepreneurial, the great outdoors, you name it, we got it. This place will only get even greater if we maximize opportunities, but that question depends on whether we answer the call to get involved."
Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill also spoke, showcasing a list of ways to make the region great. Even better? Every bullet point was already crossed off as Roanoke continues its goal in the economic marathon.
Salem City Manager Kevin S. Boggess also spoke briefly, remarking on Salem's future. Parkway Brewery was cited as one of their gems, as well as their new co-working space that will be available soon. More work is underway to ensure Salem's growth continues to be a draw for citizens and visitors alike. Boggess explained that Salem and Roanoke should not be seen as separate entities: "We have about 5 million in grants that will go into Salem. We want our area to be another Grandin Village or downtown."
Two breakout sessions contained programs to help young professionals, such as:
- Early is on time, and on time is too late (Elizabeth Layman, Aerotek)
- Breeding Success in your own back yard (Jackie Lackey)
- Be a social media hero: Likes and retweets in your eyes (Carrie Cousins and Michael Galliher)
- Money...I can't make any cents of it! (Jonathan Everett, First Bank and Trust Company, and Shawn McMahon, Morgan Stanley)
- I'd like to help! But first...Let me take a Selfie (Erika Johnson, Floydfest)
- So you want to be a.... (Adam Linkenauger and Michaela Parris)
Each breakout, led by a speaker, included tips, tricks, and necessary guidelines in how young professionals can make their own paths and help their communities. Many sessions were geared towards the entrepreneurs, though just about anyone could learn something new (especially with the good questions in the social media session) even if they were simply taking tips back to their current companies.
After a luncheon inside Roanoke City Market Building's Charter Hall, the indoor action wrapped up with a video, made by four YPs and a GoPro. After sharing their fun video, the YPs (Garett from Overcome Yours, Brie Jackson of WSLS, and Ariel Lev and Fe Nguyen of CoLab Roanoke) spoke to the audience, sharing their experiences of moving to the area. Brie, Ariel, and Fe all moved to Roanoke from other areas, touting the beauty and friendliness of the area as a big selling point. Garett, the only native in the group, made everyone laugh by opening with the fact that he used to dislike his hometown, though quickly wrapped up by admitting how pleasantly surprised he is to be here now with so many things to do and people to meet.
The event continued with an outdoor scavenger hunt, encouraging attendees to get out and enjoy the sunshine, as well as get to know the area and each other. Clues were hidden throughout downtown, where attendees had to combine their strengths and smarts in order to win. An after-hours gathering concluded the conference, as attendees shared their newfound knowledge and experiences over a drink.
eXperience 2016 was a great event that connected young professionals. It's my hope that it also got people as excited about the region as I am, about all the great things that are not only coming soon, but currently underway (such as city-wide broadband). Enthusiasm is contagious and I have no doubt attendees left feeling good about their own futures and connections. But Secretary Jones said it best that morning: it will take leadership and teamwork to make it better than ever. If eXperience 2016 is any indication of those key factors, Roanoke's future is looking pretty bright indeed.